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Starr Coun­ty Woman Charged With Voter Impersonation, Illegal Voting

Attorney General Ken Paxton today announced that the Election Fraud Unit of his office arrested Bernice Annette Garza for using a dead person’s identity to vote illegally in the March 1, 2016, Democratic primary election in Starr County. Garza was indicted by a grand jury in Hidalgo County and is charged with voter impersonation, illegal voting, and providing false information on an application for an early voting ballot. In 2016, Garza signed and submitted an application for early voting ballot by mail for Hortencia Rios, who died nine years earlier. Garza used the deceased woman’s identity to cast a vote by mail. “Mail ballots are inherently insecure. Vote harvesters, who make a living by exploiting vulnerable processes intended to make it easier for people to vote, threaten the viability of the mail ballot system and must be caught and prosecuted,” Attorney General Paxton said. “My office will continue to use everything in its power to prevent voter fraud and restore integrity to the voting process in Texas.”

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Attorney General Paxton’s office will prosecute Garza’s case, with the assistance of the Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office. The illegal voting charges against her are second-degree felonies punishable by 2-20 years in prison. From 2005-2017, the attorney general’s office prosecuted 97 defendants for numerous voter fraud violations. In 2018, Attorney General Paxton’s Election Fraud Unit – with assistance from a criminal justice grant from the governor’s office – prosecuted 33 defendants for a total of 97 election fraud violations. Last February, the attorney general announced a significant voter fraud initiative and addressed key problems and policy areas related to election law.

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